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News » Raptors offer Toronto fans some hope

Raptors offer Toronto fans some hope

Raptors offer Toronto fans some hope

Ah, sweet victory. So that's what it feels like.

Opening their season against the powerhouse Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors last night seemed oblivious to the fact that their home address is Loserville.

They started with a bang to kickoff of the team's 15th anniversary campaign, soared to a big halftime lead, then watched as LeBron James and company predictably battled back in the third quarter, briefly evening the score.

It was going to be tense down the stretch. That much was obvious, given the opposition. But how about the way they closed the show, when previous incarnations of the franchise might well have coughed it up? How about the smarts and poise and rebounding and toughness on defence? How about a 101-91 win which suggested - okay, with plenty of extrapolation - that this season might be the one in the GTA to actually exceed expectations?

It has been a remarkable pall hanging over the Big Smoke, what would seem a statistically near-impossible run of lousy teams, lousy organizations, lousy everything.

The local baseball franchise, after a bright opening few weeks, tumbled into one of the more dispiriting seasons in its history. And mired as the Blue Jays are in a division with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, in a game where money most often does buy happiness, it's awfully tough to see the bright side, even with the ever-positive Paul Beeston in charge minus the asterisk. The World Series going on now seems like life on another planet.

On the ice, the Maple Leafs began their season with a team-record losing streak, and more significantly after their four decade trek through the wilderness, left fans with the sinking feeling that Brian Burke's first big bold move as general manager might wind up costing the club the chance to draft a franchise player.

Football wise, the home team was out of Grey Cup competition by Labour Day - again - and the borrowed home team from Buffalo - despite two ugly victories in a row of late - seems similarly doomed. Though unlike the Leafs and even the Jays, there's precious little passion evident for either the Argonauts or the Bills. All of that failure seems to inspire more ennui than agony.

And last but not least, the soccer guys, with the chance to earn a spot in the playoffs for the first time in their short history, went into the home stadium of the worst side in Major League Soccer last weekend and lost a 5-0 squeaker to end their year.

Toronto the bad. The very, very bad.

Which leaves the Raptors , the other wards of the condo-building, pension-plan-pumping folks at Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment on whose heads falls so much of the blame for all that's gone wrong.

Barring a miraculous revival of the Leafs' fortunes, they'll have the winter all to themselves in the hopes and dreams department.

Their last season was a dud, perfectly in tune with everything else around them, and they enter this year as what ought to be a work in progress, with nine new faces in the lineup.

But for one game, at least, against one of the sport's elite sides, many of the things that have to go right for them did go right - starting off with Andrea Bargnani's 28 points.

There is a crowd out there that believes Basketball can't ever be it here, that it can't be the city's beating heart, and television numbers suggest that outside of the great metropolis, that might well be true, that the Rest of Canada can't quite fully bond with roundball.

But anyone who was around during the brief flowering of Vince Carter's genius, anyone who remembers that one great playoff run, who can imagine how it might have been if a shot at the buzzer hadn't bounced off the rim against the 76ers, understands that that's not true.

And imagine that in a vacuum, imagine how the Raptors might play as a single oasis in a vast desert, imagine Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu and Bargnani as the toast of the town, imagine Jay Triano as the only coach in the vicinity without a price on his head.

This is a city so beaten down on the sports front that even the whole hinterland of Toronto haters out there must feel at least a pang of sympathy.

Perhaps deliverance is at hand, perhaps there is finally a cause for optimism, perhaps the hater will soon enough be able to go back to hating. The clouds part, at least for a night, and there's a flicker up there that sure looks like light.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2009


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